What can I do when my son gets off track and drags out his day?
We figured out a schedule for our school days last week that worked really well! (Thanks Heart of Dakota – great idea!) We did our son’s English/DITHOR mostly orally and had set blocks of time for work. I thought we’d solved the main issue, which was my oldest dragging out his day and getting off track by complaining and not doing his writing. Today was going really well until he didn’t get his cursive done. He said he would do it during his free time. I said okay, not thinking it would be a big deal. Then, we got to science, which was a notebooking assignment. He had to copy a kind of long Bible verse. But, he had not been required to do much writing at all today. I mean, is that really asking too much?!?
He has good handwriting. I think he just doesn’t want to do it. He has cried, complained, said he was too tired (so I had him go to bed for a bit to rest, which got him further off track). Now, he has lost outside time. He said he didn’t want to go out today anyway (so not true – he loves to be outside). Now, I’m taking away his tv time (sometimes they can watch one show after nap). How do I fix this? I like to get school done, but he is again getting off track and dragging things out. I would appreciate any suggestions! He is such a good boy and very bright, usually obedient. It just seems he doesn’t want to do any amount of writing. How can I keep my son on track and happily moving on through his school day?
“Ms. Please Help My Son Stop Getting Off Track and Dragging Out His School Day”
Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Stop Getting Off Track and Dragging Out His School Day,”
With my boys, once we began implementing a schedule, I looked at the times on the schedule as a general rule of thumb rather than legalistic times. So, for instance if something on the schedule is meant to take 15 minutes, as long as the child is working, I allow a bit more time if needed (like 5-15 extra minutes). Once I can see we are stretching beyond that and are headed toward getting far enough off track that we soon can’t recover, I jump in and help the child recover if at all possible.
Getting Back on Track and Happily Moving Through the Day
To get back on track, I might do all of an English lesson orally, assigning none to be done on paper. Or, I may write out the math problems from the textbook to help the child move more quickly. I might downsize a math assignment a bit if needed. Or, I might put away or set out a child’s materials open to the needed pages to move him along. I may write a younger child’s answers to DITHOR, while he dictates them to me to save time.
Or, I might sit right by a child pointing out text or redirecting while he works to keep him on task. I might read directions aloud from an older child’s guide while he follows them. Or, I might send the kiddos for a much needed break, while I quickly check their work to see why they might have gotten off track. Anyway, these are just a few ideas of how you can partner with your kiddos to keep them on track and happily moving through their day.
Fixing an Off-Track School Day with a “Finish School” Time
Next, I’ll share that I have a “finish school” time in the afternoon for my third son. This is a 45 minute block of time that is a part of his schedule (after his lunch, recess, and work in the warehouse break). This is a time where he returns to his schoolwork and finishes anything he did not finish earlier during the school day. This works well for him right now! He has learned he prefers to get it done then rather than have it left in the evening. However, when we were training him in diligent work habits when he was younger, we had a work time in the evening after supper when he worked with his Dad on anything he had not finished during the school day with me. This worked well, as it was Dad who enforced the finishing rather than me!
Getting Your Son’s Handwriting Back on Track
In your son’s case, when he begins melting down over the handwriting, I would jump in to stem the tide right away. You can say something like… “Alright, I can see that you are overwhelmed with the amount of copy work today! You will have to work up to doing all of it eventually. However, to help you today, since it is a longer passage, I will write the first sentence (or two) to get you started. Then, you need to dry your eyes and get going with the rest. Let’s see how much you can get done then in 10 minutes if you work hard the whole time.” Often, once kiddos see the length reducing before they begin, they feel more able to do it. This is true of any assignment they find overwhelming!
Encourage diligent work, but still require the work to be done.
Then, head away to do something else after setting the 10 minute timer. Be sure he knows he doesn’t have to finish in that amount of time. He just needs to work diligently. If you return and he has shown progress, he can either finish (if he’s close to done) or set it aside to do the rest later. If he has chosen not to progress in the 10 minutes, simply let him know this means he’ll have to finish it later. Then, set the work aside to be done at the later time you’ve designated for leftover work (either in the evening with Dad or in the late afternoon).
Partner with your child, but if a consequence is still needed, award it only one time in the day.
If he does not work hard during the leftover work time, then you award the consequence at that time. This means you are giving the child every chance to succeed without drawing battle lines all throughout the day. You’ll only have one time that you award the consequence. You want your child to see you are partnering with them to get their work done instead of lying in wait to take away privileges. (Even though you really aren’t, they see it that way!)
Also, if the child ends up with quite a pile of work to finish during the “leftover work” time, both you and your husband (and your child) will be able to see that the day wasn’t very productive. You can discuss ways to do better the next day then. But again, you are partnering with the child to help them be successful. Anyway, these are just some thoughts you can ponder to see what might work in your family when your son gets off track.